I don’t know about you, but I hate grocery shopping. It’s so often an exercise in frustration – standing in aisles, reading labels, rolling my eyes in disgust and putting things back on the shelf. When I finally do make it to the checkout line, I stare at the register wondering if I somehow managed to break a window without noticing. Seriously, how else could my modest pile of basic ingredients rack up to such an exorbitant total?!
Over the last few years, as my exasperation with this seemingly necessary evil has grown, I’ve done a lot of searching for alternatives. Now I’m going to start sharing the best ones with you!
In honor of the advent of Spring (at least according to my calendar), I’m going to start with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
CSAs work on a pretty basic premise: consumers pay a set amount upfront at the start of the season and, in return, receive a “share” (usually defined by a certain number of pounds) of fresh, delicious food every week for the duration of the season. Although the concept is most commonly applied to produce, some CSAs include fruit, meat, and extras like honey or maple syrup.
Why It’s Awesome:
- Powerful bang for your buck.
CSAs deliver far more for the cost than you could get buying the same amount/quality at the farmer’s market or grocery store.
- Top-notch food.
Though rarely certified organic, most farms running CSAs follow top-tier farming practices.
90% of your groceries for the week are selected for perfect ripeness, boxed/bagged, and ready for pickup at the same time every week. You get the freshest, best quality produce available – and all you have to do is show up!
- A dash of mystery & adventure in every box.
While most shoppers tend to gravitate toward the same handful of foods every week, CSA boxes often feature a good combination of old standbys and inspiring new finds. It’s a great excuse to experiment, expand your cooking repertoire, and find some new favorites.
- It keeps you out of the grocery store!
With most of your food for the week coming in a single, convenient shot, you may not have to shop at all. If you do see the inside of a store, it will primarily be quick runs for specialty items or non-food essentials.
But, like every strategy and life hack, CSAs have some features that make them not a good solution for everyone.
Why It Might Not Be For You:
- Not everyone likes mystery & adventure in their menu.
If you have picky eaters at home (of any age!) or certain dietary restrictions (no nightshades, for example), this may not be a great option for you.
- Weekly pickup.
By design, CSAs have fresh produce every week. While they are usually happy to accommodate a missed pick-up here and there, if you spent large chunks of time traveling and miss multiple weeks, you may have a hard time seeing the usual return on investment.
- Time investment.
CSA bounty doesn’t come pre-diced, par cooked, or otherwise set up for instant use – it usually requires peeling, slicing, or other basic prep. If you hate/struggle with food prep, this can be problem.
If you’ve never tried a CSA before but think it might be a good fit for you, now is the time to give it a try! Spring is generally open enrollment season for CSAs, so this is a great time to explore what is available near you.
Need some help finding a CSA? Ask around at (or email) your local farmer’s market or health food store, or check out the search feature at Local Harvest.
If you don’t think CSAs are right for you, don’t worry! I’ll feature other grocery shopping alternatives in the weeks to come.
I’d love to hear what you think: Have you participated a CSA before? Did you love it, or not so much?